Saturday, February 21, 2009

Of MASH & history

Thirty 8th and 9th grade students spent two days at Community General Hospital this week learning about health care professions.

These bright, curious, and busy youngsters from MASH Camp were a delight to see in our departments and hallways. The photo, at left, shows MASH Campers in the ED. There were nearly twice as many youngsters as last year.

You can see Syracuse television coverage the MASH Camp at this link.

I spent a few minutes with the campers on Thursday morning. My role was to talk a bit about hospital administration so . . . I took a few props with me.

One prop was my daily schedule for February 18, the previous day. I hoped this would give the young people an idea about how I occupy my time, starting with my daily visit to the emergency department at about 5:30 a.m.

Another prop was the packet of materials I'd just mailed to the Board of Directors. This 101-page document includes copies of board and committee minutes, monthly reports on hospital operations, the quarterly quality report card, year-end financial reports, and briefing documents about decisions the Board will consider. I asked the MASH Campers if a teacher ever assigns them a 100-page book to read over the weekend – that is one of the things the volunteer directors do to help govern our hospital.

Then I showed the campers a 100-year old book from the Syracuse Homeopathic Hospital, our predecessor institution (photo, at right). The 517-page book measures 9 by 15 inches, and when the light catches the cover in a certain way, you can see "Pt Register & Summary” in faded script from a hand practiced in Palmer Method. The book’s brittle, yellow pages contain information about the hospitals’ patients, starting with a 29-year old woman who was admitted on September 4, 1999 and concluding with a 52-year old man who entered the hospital on June 20, 1908.

That old book gave me the opportunity to talk about our roots. Syracuse Homeopathic Hospital, started in 1895 and became General Hospital of Greater Syracuse in 1921. In 1964 General Hospital merged with the Community Hospital on Onondaga Hill to form today’s Community General Hospital of Greater Syracuse.

General Hospital was converted into Castle Rest Nursing Home in the 1960’s. When Castle Rest was razed in 1999 to make way for a new nursing home, I stopped at the demolition site to retrieve a brick from the old edifice, a part of our institutional history.

When I held up the brick (at left), my last prop, I asked the MASH Campers how old they were in 1999. The answer: three to four years old.

MASH stands for the Medical Academy of Science and Health, and Community runs this special program for junior high school students each year during the February break week. Maybe a few of the MASH Campers will be providing me with health care in another ten years.

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